The government has so far rejected calls from environmental groups to raise the target to 80%, arguing that a 60% target has the support of business as well as being a formidable challenge.
In its report on the Bill, issued yesterday, the House of Commons Environment Committee said that the first task of the proposed Committee on Climate Change (CCC) should be “to assess the current state of knowledge regarding climate science in order to determine what the 2050 target should be and the trajectory for achieving it”.
The Committee said it “agrees with the substantial amount of evidence calling for the 2050 target to be higher than 60%”. But noting that CO2 emissions in 2006 were a mere 5% below 1990 levels, it recognised that the 50% target “is still extremely ambitious”.
Unlike environmental groups, the committee accepted the case for five-year budgetary periods, but recommended that “clear annual milestones” are set and published by the CCC so that it would become apparent well before the end of a budgetary period whether policies are working.
Purchasing carbon credits from other countries to help meet carbon budgets “should only be exercised as a last resort” and should be “strictly limited to a quantifiable amount to be advised by the CCC”.
Although the Bill’s sanctions – opening the government to judicial review for failing to meet its targets or budgets – “may not be either likely or real”, the Committee accepted the Bill would increase political pressure to achieve them and subject the government of the day to “the court of public opinion”.
But if a target is missed, a parliamentary debate on a remedial action plan should be held on an amendable government motion after publication of the government’s response to the CCC’s annual progress report.